Taiwan has recorded its first dengue fever death in this year, following a week in which domestic cases climbed by 206 to 630, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said.
A woman in her 40s from Tainan died on July 21 after being hospitalized with dengue fever, marking the first fatality of Taiwan’s worst outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease in a decade.
A single dengue fever case can be linked to three or four other people who do not have detectable clinical symptoms. As it is summer holiday, a high season for traveling, sporadic cases could turn into clusters or outbreaks in communities, which increases the risk of transmission in urban areas.
Dengue infections are caused by mosquitoes carrying one of the four closely related viruses: DENV-1 to 4. These four viruses are called serotypes because each interacts differently with the antibodies in human serum. Common factors associated with dengue infection include society, population, insects and environment, as well as temperature and rainfall.
As disease-carrying mosquitoes only fly limited distances, it is the mobility of people that has facilitated the spread of the disease. As dengue hotspots are in southern Taiwan, such as the Rende (仁德) and Yongkang (永康) districts in Tainan, officials must account for potential change factors such as mobility, living environment, mosquito density in each district based on population and the weekly weather, to model possible dengue outbreaks in nearby neighborhoods.
The CDC needs to put forward the best preventive measures. If failure occurs the CDC also needs to determine whether it is caused by management strategies or ineffective measures.
The only measure currently used to control the disease is to suppress or eliminate mosquito populations. The direct method is to use insecticide spraying or make use of natural predators against mosquitoes. The indirect method is to have the public take urgent action to reduce mosquito breeding habitats by keeping their living environment clean and free of containers with stagnant water.
A new mosquito control strategy based on genetically manipulating mosquitoes is still being developed, but humans need to bear in mind the technology’s ethical implications and its impact on the ecosystem. Using fish and crustaceans to feed on mosquito larvae could take a bite out of mosquito populations, but the proposal has not yet been tested in communities.
As Aedes aegypti mosquitoes usually feed and live indoors, installing screens for doors and windows can prevent them from flying in. The public sector should encourage and subsidize the installation of screens in people’s houses.
The government should educate residents of neighborhoods hit by dengue fever on how to fight the disease and share the responsibility. In this way, it should be easier to introduce interference measures such as clearing waste, insecticide spraying and adopting ovitraps. As single measures cannot stamp out dengue fever, overall environmental management of neighborhoods and combined interference measures should yield superior results. Dengue fever prevention requires cooperation across sectors, where resources should be aimed at curbing the outbreak, not just reducing mosquito populations, as it does not necessarily prevent dengue fever outbreaks.
Furthermore, the anti-dengue campaign requires talented people with a public health background who have suitable knowledge of prevention and prediction measures. Without making such an investment, fighting dengue fever is an uphill battle
Wong Ruey-hong is a professor at Chung Shan Medical University’s School of Public Health.
Translated by Rita Wang
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has a good reason to avoid a split vote against the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in next month’s presidential election. It has been here before and last time things did not go well. Taiwan had its second direct presidential election in 2000 and the nation’s first ever transition of political power, with the KMT in opposition for the first time. Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was ushered in with less than 40 percent of the vote, only marginally ahead of James Soong (宋楚瑜), the candidate of the then-newly formed People First Party (PFP), who got almost 37
At their recent summit in San Francisco, US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) made progress in a few key areas. Notably, they agreed to resume direct military-to-military communications — which China had suspended last year, following a visit by then-speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan — to reduce the chances of accidental conflict. However, neither leader was negotiating from a particularly strong position: As Biden struggles with low approval ratings, Xi is overseeing a rapidly weakening economy. The economic news out of China has been poor for some time. Growth is slowing;
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate and New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) has called on his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) counterpart, William Lai (賴清德), to abandon his party’s Taiwanese independence platform. Hou’s remarks follow an article published in the Nov. 30 issue of Foreign Affairs by three US-China relations academics: Bonnie Glaser, Jessica Chen Weiss and Thomas Christensen. They suggested that the US emphasize opposition to any unilateral changes in the “status quo” across the Taiwan Strait, and that if Lai wins the election, he should consider freezing the Taiwanese independence clause. The concept of de jure independence was first
Ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service on Tuesday last week cut its outlook for China’s credit rating to “negative” from “stable,” citing risks from a slowing economy, increasing local government debts and a continued slump in the Chinese property market. Wasting little time, the agency on Wednesday also downgraded its credit outlooks for Hong Kong and Macau to “negative” from “stable,” citing the territories’ tight political, institutional, economic and financial linkages with China. While Moody’s reaffirmed its “A1” sovereign rating for China, the outlook downgrade was its first for the country since 2017, reflecting the agency’s pessimistic view of China’s mounting debts